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Brazil police targets JBS, BRF in food fraud probe

Updated: Trade partners issue temporary bans on Brazilian meat.

Dozens of meat processors officers were searched by Brazilian federal police last Friday, including pork and poultry processors JBS S.A. and BRF S.A. A two-year investigation into alleged bribery of regulators to subvert plant inspections lead to 194 raids by more than 1,100 officers, reports Reuters.

The investigation, known as "Operation Weak Flesh," had uncovered about 40 cases of meatpackers who had bribed inspectors and politicians to ignore unsanitary practices, police say. Regulators in the states of Paraná, Minas Gerais and Goiás helped producers place adulterated products in the marketplace by bribing state food safety auditors to issue fake sanitary permits and forgo normal oversight work.

According to the statement, police say they arrested three BRF employees and two JBS employees, as well as 20 public officials in the “Federal Police’s largest ever search-and-raid operation ever.”

In a securities filing, JBS SA state, “The operation conducted today involves companies located in several regions of Brazil, and also involves three of JBS’ facilities, two in Paraná and one in Goiás. In the facility located in Lapa, in the state of Paraná, a judicial measure was issued against one of its veterinarians, a JBS employee, who performs auxiliary inspections services for the Ministry of Agriculture.

JBS and its subsidiaries rigidly follow all regulatory guidelines in connection with the production and sale of food products in Brazil and globally, and supports all efforts aimed at punishing any violation.”

BRF did not have an immediate comment on the investigation.

Trade sanctions issued

Despite the reassures from Brazil’s President Michel Temer that the meat is safe, China, South Korea and European Union suspend meat imports from Brazil.  "The federal government wants to reiterate its confidence in the quality of our national product," commented President Temer.

As a precautionary measure, China announced it is suspending all meat products from Brazil until further information is provided.  As the leading red meat export, China and Hong Kong is Brazil’s largest meat export market.

In statement, South Korea’s agriculture ministry announced a temporary ban on poultry imported by BRF and the country will also tighten up inspection of imported Brazilian chicken meat.  Last year, 80 % of chicken imports came from Brazil.

Similar, the European Commission halted exports from the four companies involved in the scandal and the country will closely monitor Brazilian meat imports.

As the world’s largest producer of red meat, Brazil exports meat to 150 countries, contributing a $12 billion to the country’s economy. 

TAGS: Business
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